My Journey as a Professional Writer, Part 7: Advertising

Part of becoming a professional writer is learning about marketing. It’s the side of self-publishing that most writers probably know little about. We write, we revise, we focus on stories and characters and plot twists and drama. Then it comes time to actually sell the book, and most people are probably like, “Well… now what?”

A lot of people throw the ebook on amazon.com and call it a day. They’re lucky if they ever sell a single copy in that case. I know of certain ebooks posted by an author I know that have sat on Amazon for the past three months without a single sale. Others go on Twitter and send out endless tweets with links, saying, “Buy my ebook! It’s just 99 cents!” While this can be effective to a certain point, it has two major limitations. One, it only shares the link with your limited number of followers, and two, if you do it too much you annoy people and they unfollow you for spamming.

So in order to promote my work (my short story now, my novel in the near future), I feel that I need to find other ways to spread awareness of my “products” (since that’s what my books are: products being sold by an independent businessman). One obviously is through advertising, something I’m learning about little by little.

The first advertising service I’ve started using is Project Wonderful. I don’t know if they are better or worse than any other advertisers, since I haven’t had the chance to try another yet. The reason I chose them is because one of my favorite webcomics, The Order of the Stick , uses Project Wonderful ads on the site’s forums. I then noticed that others I regularly read, like Questionable Content, use the same service. I started wondering how much ads on such a site would cost, and clicked the link to investigate.

Project Wonderful allows you to ‘bid’ on ads. If I visit a site and the current advertiser is paying $5 per day, I can bid $5.10 or higher in order to steal the ad space for myself. I can also set a cap so that my bid will auto-adjust. For example, if I set a cap of $7 and someone else is bidding $5, I’ll only be charged $5.10. If someone comes along and bids $6, my bid auto-adjusts to $6.10. My bid will keep going up unless it caps out at $7. But my bid will also drop lower if no one else is bidding at these prices.

Since you can set limits, Project Wonderful seems like a good choice for someone with a tight budget. But there’s another feature that drew me to the site: they allow FREE ads.

The free ads only stay up for two days, and you can only have a max of 200 ads at a time. So in order to keep my ads for “Radiance” up there, I have to renew the ads every couple of days. This is a bit tedious, but hey, it’s free. Not only that, but it’s working.

According to the ad reports Project Wonderful generates for me, my ads for “Radiance” have been viewed about 53,000 times since I started posting them a week ago. Those views have generated 36 clicks. I can’t be sure how many of those 36 made a purchase, since my Amazon sales tracking doesn’t tell me whether a customer came from one of these ads or from Twitter. Those 36 clicks might seem like a very small percentage, but from what I’ve learned in my research into marketing, this is to be expected. I need to spread the “reach” of my ads in order to first bring up awareness that my product even exists. Then a smaller portion of the potential customers that are aware of my product will consider buying it, and a smaller portion of those will decide to actually make a purchase.

I’ve got a lot more research left to do before I have a firm understanding of advertising and marketing principles. I may take a class as one of my electives at Rowan University (since I’m currently in their Master’s of Writing graduate program). But for now, I know I’ve got a way to reach thousands of potential customers through no-cost advertising. More people have seen “Radiance” through these ads than have seen it through Twitter, and using this service helps me avoid being one of those annoying people who spams their Twitter feed with links all day long (though I’ll still drop a link here and there, of course).

Do you have any advertising advice to share? I’d certainly be interested in learning anything I can.

Oh, and lest I forget to mention it, this blog is technically an advertising platform as well. Half the reason I maintain the blog is to raise awareness of my writing work. So of course, I’m going to encourage people to check out my short story ebook from time to time. And if you have a book of your own and want to swap links, I’d be happy to post a link from here for your book (and if you’re a good friend, I’ll be quite glad to let you post a guest blog post here to spread awareness of your book).

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3 thoughts on “My Journey as a Professional Writer, Part 7: Advertising”

  1. There really is a fine line between the endless spam and proudly proclaiming the hard work you have completed. The self-promotion is a difficult thing for all of us. Remember, when you roll your work out there, you have a whole network of folks behind you. You’ll be fine.

    1. My issue is I’m not sure where the line is between spam and acceptable self-promotion. I’ve only tweeted a link to “Radiance” a few times, and every time I do it, I worry people will see me as being pushy. I think I need to research what the general public opinion is on quantity of tweeted links.

      1. I’m right there with you. You have not crossed over to the dark side of endless spamming. It would be interesting to see some real empirical evidence on where that line is for readers. The 80 – 20 rule is the one is see frequently. 80 percent content, networking and relationship building. 20 percent sales and marketing of your work. Seems reasonable.

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